Sunday, April 26, 2015

Ultramarathon


4th Sunday in Easter (B)
(Good Shepherd Sunday)

Picture: cc Asiaone News

Sisters and brothers, imagine for a moment that you’re making a long journey. Maybe you’re running an ultramarathon. Like Mr. Yong Yuen Cheng and Mr. Lim Nghee Huat. Who have both decided to celebrate Singapore’s 50th birthday by running 50 km every day for 50 days. Or maybe you’re climbing a mountain. Or making a pilgrimage of some kind. Whatever it is, the journey is long and the way is hard. Can you think of some challenges you might face along the way? Obstacles that prevent you from completing your journey? I can think of three.

The first is exhaustion. If the journey is long and hard, it’s likely that, at some point, your body is going to start feeling the strain. Maybe your legs will go soft. So that you’ll need some place to rest. Or a source of support. Like a walking stick. Or a travelling companion.

The second challenge is discouragement. Especially when the going gets tough, and your body starts complaining, it’s likely that you’re also going to feel like giving up. Maybe you’ll find your mind drifting to the comforts of home. And maybe you’ll start questioning yourself. Asking why you were stupid enough to go on this journey in the first place. When this happens, you’ll need to be reminded of two things. Your reasons for setting out. As well as what is waiting for you at your destination. Remembering how your trip began, and where it will end, can encourage you to persevere. To continue on your way.

The third challenge is danger. Such as the danger of getting lost, or of being attacked. In such situations of danger, what you’ll need is a protector and a guide. Someone to show you the way when you don’t know which direction to take. Someone to defend you from whatever may threaten your safety.

Exhaustion, discouragement, and danger. Three challenges that people who make long journeys have to face. But why am I talking about all this on this 4th Sunday of Easter? When our church celebrates Good Shepherd Sunday? And when we’re supposed to pray for more vocations to the priestly and religious life? The reason becomes clearer when we recall what we prayed for at the beginning of Mass just now. We asked that we the humble flock may reach where the brave Shepherd has gone before. We asked God to help us to arrive at our destination. Which means that, whether we realise it or not, we are all meant to be on a journey. The same journey that Jesus, our Good Shepherd, has already made and completed. By his Cross and Resurrection. The journey from death into life. From selfishness into love. From darkness into light.

My dear friends, as followers of Christ, we are all called to make this journey. Whether we like it or not. This is our vocation. And it’s not easy. We face challenges. At times, we may find ourselves overcome with exhaustion. Too tired to go on. Especially when our temptations just don’t seem to go away. No matter how hard we struggle against them. What are we to do when this happens? Our first reading and the psalm remind us that, instead of giving up, we need to keep making Jesus our cornerstone. To keep leaning on him. To let him be the stable and solid support for our aching bodies and trembling knees. For it is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.

At other times, we may feel not just tired, but also discouraged. Especially when we are made to suffer for our beliefs. Times when, precisely because we choose to follow God’s ways, we end up losing out to those who don’t. So that we may ask ourselves why we are so stupid. Why we don’t just do what everybody else does. Why, for example, we continue to refuse to step on others, or to stab them in the back, just to get ahead.

At such times, the second reading reminds us of two important things. First, we are reminded of who we already are. We are already the children of God. We are already the brothers and sisters of Christ the Lord. The One who gave his life for us. This is the reason why we act the way we do. Why we live differently from others. We live as Christ our brother lived. We act as he acted. And we face the consequences the way he did as well. Second, we are also reminded of what we are to be in the future. That we shall be like him because we shall see him as he really is. This is the goal of our journey. Our final destination. And our greatest dignity. Far more precious than any earthly success. To be like God himself. To see him as he really is. To be reminded of these things–of who we already are, and of what we will become–is to find new courage in times of discouragement.

And then there are also times when we may find ourselves in danger. In danger of getting lost or misled. Times when, even though we very much want to do what is right, we just can’t seem to see clearly the direction we should take. Times when the line between right and wrong, between good and bad, or between good and better, seems too hazy for us to recognise.

At such times, we need to remember what Jesus tells us in the gospel. That he is the good shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. When we are in danger of getting lost, he is the One who continues calling out to us. Showing us, by his example, the way we should go. When we are in danger of being deceived, he is the One who keeps us safe from harm. What we need to do is to stay close to him. To keep asking him to teach us to recognise and to follow his voice. As he speaks to us in the silence of our hearts. As well as in the different people and situations that we encounter everyday.

A sure support in exhaustion. A timely reminder in discouragement. A reliable shepherd in danger. These are the things that we find in Jesus our Lord. These are ways in which he helps us to meet the challenges of our journey. So that we can persevere to the very end. But that’s not all. To follow Jesus on the journey is not just to receive help from him. It is also to reach out to others who need our help. To be a support for those who are exhausted. To be a reminder for those who are discouraged. And to be a shepherd to those who are in danger. To do what Peter is doing in the first reading.

To help others on their journey even as we continue to receive help from the Lord on our own. This too is our vocation. And we fulfil this vocation in different ways. Most of us do it as lay people. Married or single. Doing our best to shepherd the people we meet in the world. In our homes and workplaces. In our schools and on the streets. But we also need priests and religious. People who shepherd others in more religious settings. But whether we are married or single, priest, religious, or lay, we are all called to follow Christ in his dying and rising. And to be Christ to those who travel with us on the way.

Sisters and brothers, today the Good Shepherd continues to call us to follow him. What do you need to keep persevering on your journey today?

1 comment:

  1. O Good Shepherd,

    Thank you, Lord, for showing me that:

    "It is in giving that we receive" and

    " it is in reaching out to others that I receive Your Love."
    -
    Over the past week, I visited my aunt at the Community Hospital - as I was walking into the ward, I reminded myself that I am to bring Christ to my aunt who had been there for about 2 weeks.....

    Yet, as I left the ward after the visit, I was deeply touched as I had received God's love in great abundance - God is so generous even as I tried (in my own limited way) to reach out to my aunt.

    In her recuperation, after a surgery - instead of wallowing in self pity, my aunt was very prayerful and she readily reach out to all who came to visit her - she's such a joyful patient with Christ in her heart!

    Indeed, when i learn to be Christ for others and when I put others before myself, God's love then become a reality!

    Deo Gratias.

    Seeing Is Believing
    2 May 2015

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